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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Simone Biles Withdraws from Gymnastics Final; Federal Workers to be Vaccinated or Tested; CDC: Even Fully Vaccinated People Should Now Mask Indoors; Researchers: China Expanding Nuclear Arsenal with 100+ New Silos. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired July 28, 2021 - 05:00   ET



LAURA JARRETT, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking overnight, Simone Biles pulls out of another competition and won't defend her all-around title at the Olympics. What's next for the star gymnast?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: New vaccine mandates on the way for federal workers and masks are back, a byproduct of too few Americans getting their shots.


OFFICER HARRY DUNN, PRIVATE FIRST CLASS, U.S. CAPITOL POLICE: There was an attack carried out on January 6 and a hitman sent them. I want you to get to the bottom of that.


JARRETT: Gripping and emotional testimony from four officers protecting the U.S. Capitol on January 6. How the committee is zeroing in on the former president's role.

It's Wednesday, July 28th. It's 5:00 a.m. here in New York. Thanks for getting an EARLY START with us. I'm Laura Jarrett.

ROMANS: I'm Christine Romans. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all round the world. We are live this morning in Beijing, Washington, Nairobi and Tokyo.

And that is where we begin with breaking news this morning. Simone Biles has pulled out of another event, the gymnastics all-around final to focus on her mental health.

Coy Wire is in Tokyo for us.

And we know it's a pressure cooker. We know that the Olympics is high stress, high pressure. And Simone Biles is saying mental health is more important here.

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, especially at the Olympics because these opportunities only come once every four years. Biles considered the most dominant gymnast of all time, now, she's being crowned a champion by many, getting a lot of support for putting her mental health first on the world's biggest stage.

USA Gymnastics releasing a statement saying that Simone will continue to be evaluated daily to determine whether or not to participate in next week's individual event finals. We wholeheartedly Simone's decision and applaud her bravery in prioritizing her well-being, her courage shows yet again why she is a role model for so many, unquote.

Now, she had a disappointing score on the vault during the team final on Tuesday. She withdrew herself after that saying she didn't want to hurt her teammates' chances of meddling. She then went to cheer them as they took silver.

And this is how -- listen, to how she described the events that led up to that competition.


SIMONE BILES, 4-TIME GYMNASTICS GOLD MEDALIST: I was shaking. I just never felt like this going into a competition before. And I tried to go out here and have fun and warm up in the back went a little better but once I came out here, I was like, no, mental is not there. So I just need to let the girls do it and focus on myself.


WIRE: Now, Biles has qualified in all four individual events beginning on Sunday. The world is waiting to see if she will be okay and if she'll compete again here in Tokyo.

Now, U.S. swimming legend Katie Ledecky failing to medal for the first time, finishing fifth in the 200 meter freestyle on Wednesday. But just over an hour later, she was back in that pool making history yet again in the first ever women's 1,500 meter free style event in the Olympics, I was there to see Ledecky dominate, winning gold. And she was hardly even using her legs during the race.

I talked to a Team USA staffer afterwards and they said Ledecky was saving her energy because she has two events to go here in Tokyo. By the time the games are complete, she will have swam a stunning 3.7 miles. Go Stanford!

Fellow American Erica Sullivan took silver in the event.

And after dropping their opener to France, the U.S. men's basketball team taking out their frustrations on Iran. They were on fire sinking 19 three pointers in the win. Damian Lillard led with 21 points. U.S. won 120-66. A win Saturday against the Czech Republic will give the U.S. a berth in to the middle round next week.

Christine, Laura, what a day here in Tokyo and more to come as the sunrises there. Later we'll see the first ever Olympic golds in three on three basketball (AUDIO GAP) as they're called on the Olympics.

JARRETT: That will be something to watch for sure.

You know, Coy, it strikes me there is something of a common thread between all of our stories today. And in my mind it is trauma. Different kinds of trauma, but you have Simone Biles, the emotional scars of these police officers who testified so bravely yesterday, you have mentally exhausted Americans facing yet another round of mask wearing after all that they have been through.

And, Coy, you have competed at the highest levels. You've covered the Olympics before. Give us some insight about just what it takes for athletes like yourself. In so many ways, you know, I think people think that athletes have to sort of overcome a lot of the mental hurdles for this.


Take us behind the scenes.

WIRE: Yeah, it's a good point, Laura. And to Christine's point earlier, that phrase you used pressure cooker, Christine, that's a phrase I'm familiar with from my days playing in the NFL, highly intense, a very cutthroat environment.

I have seen grown men broken to tears because in like Biles' situation, they let their teammates down. I was one of them. It happens.

You know, you have to remember that Simone Biles is 24 years old, and she's out there in this huge moment, one of the most recognizable athletes in the world, the greatest gymnast of all time, it's admirable what Biles and Osaka are doing, not hiding or creating a facade to hide behind, they are vocalizing their feelings.

In the NFL days, you know, you were told keep your head low, just get back out there. That's archaic. That's unhealthy.

What Biles, Osaka, and others are doing will help countless others who might be going through tough times, give them the okay to say I'm not okay.

I talked to another athlete who has been outspoken about the importance of mental health this past weekend, one of the greatest Olympians of all time, Michael Phelps, I asked him then how he feels athletes should be protecting their mental health. Listen.


MICHAEL PHELPS, 23-TIME OLYMPIC GOLD MEDALIST: Mental preparation for these games I can't even imagine what it was like going through these heading into this, especially the last year, because so much is out of our control, right? So I think at that point the only thing you got to do is make sure you are doing what you need to. If you are tired, sleep. Take care of yourself as much whenever you possibly can.


WIRE: Again, I just want to reiterate these athletes who have this international stage, this worldwide stage, to be able to vocalize the importance of mental health, it's going to help countless others, especially our youth out there, Christine and Laura, who are going through tough times or may some day.

JARRETT: Absolutely. And I was sad to read. You know, she told "The Times" that some of her best times were actually her time off, not the times actually competing at the Olympics. So definitely wishing her all the best and hoping that she will get the help that she needs.

ROMANS: Coy Wire in Tokyo, thank you, Coy. Talk to you soon.

JARRETT: Thanks, Coy.

WIRE: Thank you.

JARRETT: All right. Millions of federal employees may be getting vaccinated for COVID-19, like it or not.

A source with direct knowledge tells CNN President Biden will announce Thursday all federal employees and contractors will have to be vaccinated or submit to regular testing and other restrictions. It's a sign of just how far we've come if you think about it. From months of so much hope and anticipation around these vaccines to now, all but forcing millions of people to take it.

ROMANS: And with the highly contagious delta variant spreading rapidly, the CDC updated Tuesday that even fully vaccinated people should wear masks indoors in places with high or substantial COVID transmission.

Now, look, they made the point that if you have the safe and effective vaccine, you are less likely to get sick. You are very less likely to be hospitalized. It protects you. But this delta variant is spreading quickly. As you can see, most of the country, considered some of the most populated cities in the U.S., Chicago, Philadelphia, those residents don't need to remask yet. But all these other cities, you do.

Chief medical correspondent, Dr. Gupta, has more on what sparked that change.


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: No question this may feel like a step backwards in terms of now recommending vaccinated people wear a mask when they are in public in-door spaces. Again, it's vaccinated people. So regardless of vaccination status, everyone should be wearing a mask in those types of settings.

There is a few things that have sort of really been driving this. One is that we know vaccinations aren't where I think people hoped they would be by this point. We also know that delta variant is spreading.

Back in May when the guidance said that you don't need to wear masks if you are vaccinated indoors anymore, the delta strain was about 1.4 percent. And you can see it's now 83 percent. It has become the dominant strain and it is far more contagious, so much so that someone who is vaccinated and develops one of these infections, so-called breakthrough infection, maybe they don't have any symptoms or anything, but they can still carry the same viral load as someone who is unvaccinated and infected.

Just to be clear, the vaccine is still doing its job because the vaccinated person is not likely to get severely ill, but they could still potentially transmit the virus. And that is sort of driving some of these changes.

Here is how Dr. Rochelle Walensky put it.


DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, DIRECTOR OF THE CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL: We examine the rarer breakthrough infections and look at the amount of virus in those people, it is pretty similar to the amount of virus in unvaccinated people. We are now continuing to follow those clusters to understand the impact of forward transmission of those vaccinated people. But again, I want to reiterate, we believe that vast majority of transmission is occurring in unvaccinated people and through unvaccinated people.



GUPTA: So what does it mean for you?

Again, these are recommendations. These are not mandates. But take a look at the map here. If you live in an area of high viral transmission or substantial viral transmission, that is about two- thirds of the country, you do -- you are going to -- the recommendation from the CDC is that you wear a mask if you go to a public indoor space.

So, obviously, there's going to be a lot of debate about this in the days and weeks to come. But that is the new guidance from the CDC for now.


ROMANS: Yeah. You know, what worries me a little bit is that people see and they think, oh, that means the vaccine didn't work. No, the vaccine is safe and effective and Rochelle Walensky of the CDC makes this point, vaccines reduce the risk of symptomatic infections seven- fold --


ROMANS: -- and reduce the risk of hospitalization twenty-fold. So, it is -- your armor is your vaccine. Your armor out there in this war of COVID is your vaccine. And that's really important to note.

Also, I think that we need to make it very clear that if you are unvaccinated, you are supposed to be wearing a mask all along. That doesn't change for you if you are unvaccinated. This is people who are vaccinated must wear a mask in those areas because the unvaccinated haven't done their public health job.

JARRETT: Recognition that just didn't happen.

ROMANS: Right.

JARRETT: We all know that that just didn't happen and that is part of why we are where we are.

So with the delta variant raging now, masks are now again required in the White House and U.S. Capitol building. The CDC is also recommending everyone at schools wear masks, students, teachers, staff, even if they are fully vaccinated.


JEROME ADAMS, FORMER U.S. SURGEON GENERAL: We know that the risk to children is low, but it is not nonexistent. Kids are spreading it to other people and we know that when you look at schools under 12 not vaccinated at all because they can't be, 12 to 17 only 32 percent of those people are vaccinated, schools are a large reservoir of unvaccinated people, of super-spreaders, if you will, who can take the delta variant home to other places.


ROMANS: I can tell you. There's no other topic of conversation for parents with children under the age of 12. No other topic of conversation.

Not everyone is on board, though, with the new guidelines -- surprise, surprise. In Ft. Lauderdale, a group of about 20 mask-burning protesters forced the Broward County school board to postpone a discussion on mask requirements. And St. Louis County Council voted to overturn an indoor mask mandate put in place Monday.

Dr. Fauci would like everyone to know there's an easy way to stop all this.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: We have 100 million people in this country who are eligible to be vaccinated who have not gotten vaccinated. If you want to end all of this back and forth, let's get the overwhelming proportion of the population vaccinated and all of this will go away because the virus won't have any room to change, to mutate, to become a different variant.


ROMANS: It's so clear. It's so simple, but I don't know why that message just does not resonate in 100 million people.

JARRETT: And yet, Gwinnett County in Georgia and Clark County in Nevada will now require masks for all students. Of the largest 20 school districts in the U.S., all are requiring masks except get this through districts in Florida and Texas. Two states that happen to have the highest infection rates and Republican governors who have banned mask requirements.

ROMANS: All right. More on all this as the hour progresses.

But also, China spotted expanding its nuclear arsenal. What researchers say this new evidence shows? CNN live in Beijing.



JARRETT: Breaking overnight, a new report from U.S. researchers says China appears to be rapidly expanding its nuclear capabilities.

CNN's Steven Jiang is live in Beijing with more.

Steven, Beijing has had a minimum deterrent strategy for decades now when it comes to its arsenal. But now, these new missile silos seem to be cropping up and that calls it into question.

STEVEN JIANG, CNN SENIOR PRODUCER: That's right, Laura. We are talking about at least 230 new missile silos that appear to be under construction in the country's vast western deserts. All of them capable of handling intercontinental ballistic missile with nuclear warheads, and those numbers is more than ten times the current number of Chinese missile silos. And this is on top of the country's already rapidly growing nuclear arsenal especially its missile capabilities.

So if confirmed, this would mark a drastic departure from the minimum deterrence policy you just mentioned. That policy means that Beijing has pledged not to use nuclear weapons unless attacked. And they also say that their nuclear forces maintained at a minimum level to safeguard national security.

But this report of has receive buildup of course is anything but minimum, according to experts. Now, the government here has not responded to our request for comment, but experts say there do be several reasons behind this, one is that they simply want a bigger arsenal to match its superpower status. And also, they could be worried about the vulnerability of ground based missiles so they want to build this large number of silos so they could easily move their missiles randomly to play a shell game.

And then, of course, this is happening at a time when tensions are really building rapidly between Washington, Beijing, and state media here have suggested that government's nuclear policy should not be tied down by Washington and minimum policy should change, according to its security needs.

So, all of this obviously, Laura, raising a lot of alarm about a potential dangerous and expensive nuclear arms race.

JARRETT: Yeah, very clear that the U.S. government is certainly keeping tabs on it, keeping an eye on the situation very closely. Steven, thank you for following this as well.

ROMANS: All right. No question. No question a roaring U.S. recovery from the pandemic, but many businesses hit have reopened. Some jobs though have a long way to go before bouncing back to pre-COVID levels. We'll tell you which industries and why.



ROMANS: Beefing up made in America. Just in moments ago, brand new, the Biden administration proposing a new rule to boost U.S. manufacturing. It raises the so-called domestic content threshold for goods the federal government buys. That means more of the product must be actually made in America. It gradually raises that level from the current 55 percent to 60 percent eventually to 75 percent by the year 2029.

Now, the White House calls this the most robust change to the implementation of the Buy American Act, excuse me, in almost 70 years. It's meant to strengthen domestic supply chains.


The pandemic disrupted the flow of imported components, remember, causing supply shortages, delays and higher prices for American consumers. If you use more American components, you can protect against that in the future. We'll hear from the president today in Pennsylvania on the administration's buy American push. The White House, Laura, says it's already started, want to be very clear, that this is a new role it's proposing to raise that threshold, but they're already started buying more American made products, the federal government, and making sure more of those products have components made in America.

JARRETT: It works.

All right. Still ahead, the four officers who protected the U.S. Capitol from the mob of Trump supporters delivering gut-wrenching stories of being attacked.


SGT. AQUILINO GONELL, U.S. CAPITOL POLICE: I could feel myself losing oxygen and recall thinking to myself, this is how I'm going to die defending this entrance.


JARRETT: Hear them recount the harrowing day and see why this was not just a normal tourist visit, next.